What are Justin Fields’ most important checkpoints in 2023? Setting goals for the Chicago Bears QB in 7 categories.

As the season nears and the year-over-year progress of Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields continues to be measured, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy considered what he wants the passing attack to look like when the curtain lifts for the opener against the Green Bay Packers.

After months of watching Fields grow in his understanding of the Bears system, after confirming Fields’ increased knowledge of defenses, after sharpening the all-important timing and rhythm, Getsy will administer the proverbial eye test Sunday at Soldier Field.

So what exactly will he zero in on to confirm whether all of Fields’ improvements are translating into meaningful game-day results?

“Playing that position, it’s important that you’re in control,” Getsy said. “What that means is that you’re taking care of the football. You’re not getting surprised by anything. And if you do, then how do you respond to those things that did surprise you?

“Then, if you’re able to respond in the way that not necessarily wins the game for you but doesn’t lose the game, you know you’ve prepared somebody for that opportunity.”

There’s important subtext within those sentiments as well as a directive for how Fields can take the next big step.

By now it’s well-established that the 2023 season will be pivotal for Fields and, by extension, the Bears. A year ago, Fields frequently became an extra-tall can of Monster for Bears fans, using his athleticism and speed to generate a lengthy montage of highlights.

His 1,143 rushing yards registered as the second-highest total by a quarterback in NFL history. He mixed in 17 touchdown passes and 13 completions for at least 30 yards, showing a big-play prowess that has allowed many to dream big.

Perhaps Fields really is “H1M,” the nickname trumpeted across social media to proclaim him the long-awaited savior of a franchise that has spent more than a century trying to stabilize the position.

Or maybe, as many inside the league have deduced, he is a middle-tier starter trying to make step-by-step progress on one of the most difficult climbs in sports.

Time will tell — particularly the next 18 weeks as Fields’ journey unfolds and he creates new results to examine.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles kept his answer brief but direct last week when asked to illuminate specific benchmarks he’ll have his eye on with Fields this season.

“We want those sack numbers to come down, the interceptions to come down,” Poles said. “(We want him to) make good reads, protect himself and just see him take that next step.”

Internal expectations can be tricky to calibrate, particularly for an organization that has one playoff victory over the last 12 seasons and has sent only two quarterbacks to the Pro Bowl ever — Jim McMahon in 1985 and Mitch Trubisky (as an alternate) in 2018.

So what are reasonable expectations to pin on Fields as this season begins? We took a crack at setting important statistical goals and checkpoints across seven categories.

Passing yards

Historical fact: 31 NFL teams have had a 4,000-yard passer in their history, and eight teams have had a quarterback break the 5,000-yard barrier. Over the last 20 years, 42 quarterbacks have thrown for at least 4,000 yards in a season. Last year eight players did it, including league MVP Patrick Mahomes (for the fifth consecutive season) as well as middle-tier quarterbacks such as Geno Smith and Jared Goff.

So, yes, it remains disconcerting that the Bears’ single-season record is 28 years old and held by Erik Kramer at 3,838 yards. Nothing screams “That’s so Bears” like a franchise passing milestone set during a 9-7 third-place season last century.

Fields will get every opportunity to make a run at Kramer’s record this fall and has the NFL’s 17-game season, implemented in 2021, as wind at his back. In July, when asked by the “All Things Covered” podcast if he could end the Bears’ 103-season drought without a 4,000-yard passer, Fields confidently declared he is on that mission.

“Plan on doing it this year,” he said.

In that journey to 4,000, though, Fields first would have to reach the 3,000-yard checkpoint. The Bears passing leader has fallen short of that mile marker in 20 of the last 30 seasons, with Trubisky the last to reach 3,000 back in 2019.

Fields could average 200 passing yards over 15 starts to find his way to 3,000. That’s a reasonable possibility and well within reach. But it’s also worth noting that Fields has thrown for 200 yards or more in only six of his 25 starts while falling short of 150 eight times.

Let’s baby-step this one.

The 2023 goal: 3,200 passing yards, at least seven games with 225 yards and at least three with 300-plus.

Ball security

As Getsy hinted in his training camp assessment, a young quarterback’s ability to sidestep game-losing errors might be as critical as his skill in producing game-winning plays. Thus, taking care of the football remains priority No. 1 for Fields, who hasn’t excelled in that department over his first two seasons.

In 25 career starts, Fields has 21 interceptions and 28 fumbles (with only seven lost).

His 3.5% interception rate last season ranked 31st among qualifying passers, and it was a worrisome 7.1% in the fourth quarter, ranking 35th among quarterbacks with at least 60 fourth-quarter passes.

The league leader in interception rate was Daniel Jones of the New York Giants at 1.1%. Goff and Dak Prescott were the best in fourth-quarter interception rate (1.2%).

Fields had repeated stumbles during training camp, throwing 18 interceptions during seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 periods. And they weren’t all on “test it out” throws in the experimental mindset of camp. Internally, the Bears will scrutinize every giveaway this season and continue their daily messaging about taking care of the football. Fields understands what’s being asked.

The 2023 goal: An interception rate of 2.2% or lower should put Fields in the top half of the league. He also should aim for season totals of 10 or fewer picks and eight or fewer fumbles — assuming he makes at least 15 starts. Which leads us to our next category.


The Bears are ordering Fields to scramble less, hoping he understands the big-picture rationale in saving his game-changing running ability for situational usage. In short, he can’t pull that tuck-and-run escape lever as frequently as he did in 2022.

Third-and-long? Down near the goal line? Turn it loose. On first down with a check-down pass readily available? Throw the football and get on to the next snap.

Consider this part of the concerted push to protect Fields from both injury and fatigue. There is zero doubt about Fields’ toughness or ability to withstand big hits. And — knock on wood — to this point he hasn’t suffered any serious injuries.

But the cumulative toll of getting hit or expending excessive fuel as a runner is real. The Bears are aware of it and are coaching Fields accordingly.

Over the last two seasons, Fields missed games with injuries to his ribs, ankle, shoulder and hip. He also missed the season finale in 2021 with COVID-19. His longest streak of consecutive starts is 11. His ascension will continue only if he can stay on the field.

Fields has missed more games because of injury or illness (seven) than he has won (five). He must get on the other side of that ledger — as soon as possible.

The 2023 goal: 15 starts.


With Fields instructed to scramble less, he will have to improve his pocket presence while speeding up his internal clock and consistently getting rid of the ball before the pass rush can devour him.

One league executive pointed to Fields’ 2022 sack total (55) as one of the most worrisome numbers on his ledger. With the Bears attempting a league-low 377 passes last season, Fields was sacked once for every 3.5 completions. (Mahomes, for comparison’s sake, had 16.7 completions for every sack he took.)

Fields’ 2022 sack rate of 14.7% was not only the worst in the NFL by far, but also the fourth-worst among quarterbacks with at least 250 pass attempts since sacks became an official stat in 1982.

Sure, that figure is a touch misleading, not factoring in the sacks Fields avoided by scrambling for positive yardage. But it’s a metric that needs improvement. Drastic improvement.

A shaky and continually reshuffled offensive line contributed to last season’s sack total, but Fields’ slice of the responsibility pie chart was significant. Plus, the yards the Bears lost when Fields was sacked — 23.9 per start — damaged the offense’s bid to create momentum.

The 2023 goal: Fewer than 40 sacks and a sack rate of 8% or better.


Fields threw three passes — all caught behind the line of scrimmage — in the Bears’ preseason opener last month and somehow left Soldier Field that afternoon with 129 passing yards and two touchdowns.

With an upgraded cast of playmakers around him, Fields must resist the urge to do so much by himself and rely on his wide receivers, running backs and tight ends to make him look good.

The team’s prize acquisition this offseason, DJ Moore, certainly will help. Moore had the ball thrown his way three times in the preseason and made two catches for 102 yards with 90 yards coming after the ball was in his hands. “Makes my job easy,” Fields said.

That’s the point. From the front office down to the coaching staff, the Bears have emphasized the need to create more explosive plays in the passing game, measured at Halas Hall as completions of at least 20 yards.

Fields will be accountable to that goal, needing to make game-changing throws to the intermediate and deep parts of the field. But he also can’t forget the lessons learned this summer of benefiting from short completions that turn into big gains.

In 2022, Fields had 32 completions of at least 20 yards, including five touchdowns. A significant uptick is reasonable to expect.

The 2023 goal: 45 explosive completions and at least seven TD passes from outside the red zone.

Clutch play

The Bears finished 31st last season in fourth-quarter points. Their average of 3.6 points is even more astounding when considering they lost 14 times with six defeats by at least 16 points. They entered the fourth quarter playing from behind in 10 of Fields’ 15 starts and still couldn’t compile the “chase” statistical production lower-tier teams often accumulate.

Fields’ six fourth-quarter interceptions ranked second-to-last in the league. His 61.3 fourth-quarter passer rating ranked 34th among quarterbacks with at least 60 fourth-quarter attempts. Only Mike White of the New York Jets was worse at 57.0.

A huge step forward in crunch time is needed if the Bears’ 2023 rebound efforts are to get off the ground. And Fields must find a way to flip the script in game-on-the-line situations.

In two seasons, Fields has led 22 possessions that began in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game or put the Bears ahead. The offense scored on six of those drives.

Last season Fields and the Bears were 1-for-12 on potential tying or go-ahead drives that began in the final eight minutes. Their lone success? A 0-yard field-goal drive to beat the Houston Texans after a Roquan Smith interception set up the offense at the 12.

NFL quarterbacks are defined by how they perform late in close games. This season should provide Fields ample opportunity to answer that bell.

The 2023 goal: At least two game-winning drives. A fourth-quarter passer rating of 82.0 or above. And an average of at least 5.8 points in the fourth quarter.

Direction, juice, momentum

Above everything else, Fields can’t forget his ability to change a game with the snap of his fingers — or a well-timed, highlight-reel touchdown dash.

It’s no small deal that seven of his eight runs last season for at least 25 yards came at Soldier Field, intoxicating the home fans. That included touchdown runs of 61 yards against the Miami Dolphins, 67 against the Detroit Lions and 55 against the Packers, plus an astounding 39-yard near-touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Fields must continue to use his game-breaking running ability to aid the offense every week. We’ll set an attainable rushing yardage goal of 625 — and hope he doesn’t get anywhere near his 160 rushing attempts last season.

There’s also a reason so many Bears fans use photos of Fields’ celebratory Slip ‘N Slide dive through Soldier Field’s north end zone from Week 1 last season as their social media avatars. That brand of electricity is contagious.

And while we can — and should — talk at length all season about the improvement Fields is striving to make with his processing speed, accuracy and willingness to rip trust throws on a regular basis, we also should understand the Bears’ journey forward will require him to be a constant energy source. With the way he leads, with the big plays he makes, with how much he wins.

Poles was asked last week what Fields could do this season to merit contract extension talks next spring and summer.

“I can’t tell you how many boxes need to be checked,” he said. “Your gut instinct is always going to be a part of that decision-making as well. You’re looking for progress to feel good about it and also to watch the tape and get a feel for whether a guy can take you to that next level.”

Poles’ definition of the next level? “Win more games.”

The 2023 goal: Seven victories.